When I was a kid, I wanted to stay firmly rooted in a single voice and time, unless the “other time” involved moving through a mirror or a wardrobe or a staircase or—I had opinions, and they didn’t always make sense.
The essay that grew out of these reading experiences with Betty Smith’s fiction would have been quite different if I’d included all my favourite passages about books (I did squeeze in a couple). Like this one, about Francie, from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn:
“From that time on, the world was hers for the reading. She would never be lonely again, never miss the lack of intimate friends. Books became her friends and there was one for every mood. There was poetry for quiet companionship. There was adventure when she tired of quiet hours. There would be love stories when she came into adolescence and when she wanted to feel a closeness to someone she could read a biography. On that day when she first knew she could read, she made a vow to read one book a day as long as she lived.”
Annie, in Joy in the Morning, loves the library and books as much as Francie does. She declares to her newlywed husband: “Now, you let me be, Carl. Some people do crossword puzzles. I do books.”
“She went from room to room, floor to floor, stack to stack, reveling in books, books, books. She loved books. She loved them with her senses and her intellect. The way they smelled and looked; the way they felt in her hands, the way the pages seemed murmur as she turned them. Everything there is in the world, she thought, is in books.”